The mystery of how Merton does its business…

A brief summary of the current situation for those watching developments in the saga of Plough Lane:

AFC Wimbledon is awaiting final go ahead from the Mayor of London to set up home there; greyhound fans are upset that they will be turfed out of London’s last remaining racing track; the stock car community is fed up that they will lose their Sunday night sport; and Galliard Homes want to build a dense 602-home development on part of the site with a minimal offering of less than 10% affordable housing.

Merton Borough Council approved theAFCW and Galliard Homes plans back in December, but the ‘SaveWimbledon’ consortium, as the stock car racing community have styled themselves, believe that the decision was taken in haste and without due consideration of other sports currently using the site.

They say of the December planning meeting: “Further reading through the 266 page transcript and viewing of the webcast of the meeting have highlighted a number of areas of concern.”

As a result, they say, they have lodged a procedural complaint with Merton Borough Council, adding:  “On the basis of our experience to date, we fully expect our complaint to be rejected by Council Leader Steve Alambritis, in which case we will continue to respect the formal process and simply raise our concerns further up the democratic line.”

Concerns about the way Merton’s planning department operates are not limited to the Plough Lane redevelopment. Other community groups ( RavensburyGrove    @MitchamCrktGrn )have expressed dissatisfaction with the partisan approach taken to applications by planning officers who, when presenting them to the planning committee, appear to act more as advocates for the developers than independent assessors. In addition, concerns have been voiced about the way the council handles consultation processes, and the way council reports seem to parrot developers’ proposals.

It’s what Cllr Alambritis calls “taking a businesslike approach” for the council, often through its futureMerton team, to work with the commercial sector in order to make sure our borough gets the best outcomes, but it is a relationship that requires close scrutiny in order to ensure that democratic processes are not neglected.

That level of scrutiny appears to be lacking in Merton at present. For example, what are the terms of reference under which futureMerton, part of Cllr Andrew Judge’s environment and regeneration department, operates? Who runs it? What are they working on at present?

futureMerton has its own page on the council’s website but it carries a distinct whiff of tumbleweed: “This web page is under development for summer 2013. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @futureMerton ”

The @futureMerton twitter feed is a ghost town with no tweets, followers, media, likes… nada.

We as residents pay for these services, why are kept in the dark about what they are up to?